Israel's Netanyahu appears poised for re-election, projections show

Israel's Netanyahu appears poised for re-election, projections show

But Netanyahu was in a stronger position to form a coalition government with the anticipated support of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, Likud's natural allies. However, the country now faces what could be weeks of political negotiations over the composition of a ruling coalition.

Final results were expected by Thursday afternoon, adding in the ballots of soldiers and other special categories of voters.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to his supporters after polls for Israel's general elections closed in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, April 10, 2019.

At the sessions, which Rivlin said would be broadcast live "to ensure transparency", he will then pick a party leader to try to form a coalition, giving the candidate 28 days to do so, with a two-week extension if needed.

Netanyahu campaigned on his foreign policy victories and close relations with world leaders - Trump in particular.

Fireworks flared behind him as his wife Sara applauded and kissed him.

Most of the votes have been counted and the two main parties - Likud and Blue and White - are virtually tied for seats in the parliament.

Meanwhile, Labor and Meretz said they'd recommend Gantz while Kahlon and Liberman said they would decide Wednesday.

The election was in many ways a referendum on the 69-year-old premier who has built a reputation as guarantor of the country's security and economic growth, but whose populism and alleged corruption have left many ready for change.

US President Donald Trump, who featured on Likud campaign billboards, phoned the incumbent to congratulate him on his re-election, Mr Netanyahu said.

His nationalist allies, however, see the move as a repeat of his 2015 election tactic to draw away their voters as he did four years ago when on election day, he warned of Arabs turning out in "droves".

He was deeply disturbed by Trump's supposed role in Netanyahu's re-election, citing recent policy decisions such as moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and declaring Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Mr Trump predicted a boost to his administration's promised plan for a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is a move long championed by Israel's far right.

It would be Mr Netanyahu's record fifth term as Prime Minister. On a visit to Washington, Donald Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, in defiance of overwhelming worldwide consensus. Rivals have also begun to question a deal in which Netanyahu reportedly earned $4 million on a German submarine sale to Egypt by owning shares in one of the German manufacturer's suppliers. That would mean a five-seat gain for Likud.

The race between Gantz's and Netanyahu's coalitions attracted worldwide attention. "We have a reason to be proud", Gantz wrote.

He sought to overcome Netanyahu´s experience by allying with two other former military chiefs and ex-finance minister Yair Lapid to form his alliance.

Israel's economy grew almost 75 percent during Netanyahu's decade in power, expanding even during the global recession, though the gains haven't done much to close the gap between rich and poor. Wrong in and of itself, it would also provide a purchase for the right to ratchet him further on the issue.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing in all three cases and has the opportunity to convince the attorney general not to charge him in a pre-trial hearing, which is expected in July.

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